More Accessibility in the ADKs: Jason Thurston

Hey party people! I know I missed a blog post somewhere in the mix, so I thought I ought to make my last one and say goodbye. It’s been a great semester. 

Recently in class, when talking about different stakeholders, we have often brought up the concerns about accessibility of wilderness to various different groups of stakeholders. Betsy made a post relatively recently about accessibility and blogger Cory Lee, and mentioned Jason Thurston. While reading the Adirondack Almanack, I knew the name sounded familiar. So, to expand on Betsy’s post, I am sharing Thurston’s perspective on accessibility in the park. 

Jason Thurston came to the Adirondacks in 1991 where he worked at Paul Smith’s college. Here he explored camping at Adirondack lean-tos and having been to some myself, I can see why he loves them!. (side note, he is also a loon fan! this final website is consuming my every thought) Then, in 2004, he broke his neck in a swimming accident and was left quadriplegic. He soon found himself working at the Tri-Lakes Center for Independent Living, an organization that promotes equal access for people with disabilities, and later John Dillon Park, a campground catered to people with disabilities. At this campground, lean-tos are wheelchair accessible, and there are sleeping platforms, breaking down the barriers that make traditional lean-tos less accessible. Most importantly, John Dillion Park is a beautiful place, with views, fishing, canoeing or kayaking, just like other parks. It is also free and open to the public, regardless of whether you have a disability.  

The author grilling over a specialized, accessible outdoor camping grill.

Jason Thurston roasting chicken at Dillon Park

Thurston notes that different people have different levels of ability; what one disabled person needs is not always the same as another. Thus, having a variety of accessibility friendly options will be the goal in changing the park.

In 2020 Jason Thurston was appointed as chairman of Accessibility Advisory Committee for the DEC and APA and has been working towards increasing accessibility in the Adirondack Park. Thurston posted an article this past July talking about accessibility at the Fish Creek Pond campground. This campground, is in fact, where everyone stays on the last night of the 90 mile canoe race and puts in their boats first thing in the morning, and I have stayed there twice now. It is a lovely campground. 11 sites are available for people with disabilities, featuring accessible picnic tables and firepits, as well as making the ground at campsites firm, flat, and stable. More work at Fish Creek Campground to come!

In the debate between accessibility and preservation, there is a happy middle ground. If the Adirondacks can have fancy private clubs with busses and huge lodges, the least we can do is work on making more accessible campsites and roads. I look forward to hearing what other improvements Jason Thurston makes in the park. 

Have a great winter break everyone! 🙂 


My accessible vans, road salt, and rust

Accessible Adirondacks

2 thoughts on “More Accessibility in the ADKs: Jason Thurston

  1. This is so interesting! I think the question of accessibility is pressing and interesting considering the regulations on development or managing the wilderness and wild forest areas of the park. It must be difficult to find certain solutions that don’t involve building or much renovation with modern technology for accessibility.

  2. This is such a great post! I think in my post I didn’t mention that accessibility needs look different for everyone, and different forms should be created to adjust to those needs. I hope the Adirondacks continue to create more accessible trails and spaces.

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